On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the European Parliament Disability Intergroup wants to pay a deserved tribute to the millions of persons with disabilities in Europe who suffered the most devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our hearts are with the families and friends of persons with disabilities who passed away, with those who live in residential institutions, with those who did not receive proper health care when needed, with those who were deprived from their support network, with those who had no alternative to keep working or studying, with those who suffered violence and poverty, and with those who, still today, are left in isolation.
For centuries persons with disabilities have been segregated, discriminated, and only in recent years their rights have started to be recognised. However, the pandemic has been a stark reminder of how far we are from realising the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
In the middle of this very difficult year, the European Union has the possibility to change this situation. The next EU budget is being negotiated, and the European Commission is now preparing a new Disability Rights Strategy for the next decade. Thus, in this turning point for our Union, the Disability Intergroup wants to call its fellow colleagues at the European Parliament, the Member States and Council, and the European Commission to take a strong stand for the rights of 100 million persons with disabilities.
The EU money made available for the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic must have a strong focus on taking people with disabilities out of poverty and social exclusion. EU funds must therefore be invested in ensuring non-discrimination and equal opportunities regardless of type of disability, an inclusive open labour market, inclusive education, in accessibility, freedom of movement, and transition from institutional care in closed settings to independent living in the community. Health policies and their funding have never been so critical, and all EU countries must ensure persons with disabilities have equal access to public health information and to treatment. In this context, the specific needs of women, children and older people with disabilities must be taken into account. Persons with disabilities, along with their support networks, must have access to priority groups for vaccination, when their health or living conditions makes them more vulnerable to the virus.
The upcoming Disability Rights Strategy must guide us all in promoting and guaranteeing the rights of persons with disabilities in all aspects of life. The EU needs a strong and ambitious set of initiatives with clear targets and timelines. To make this a reality, effective governance and monitoring mechanisms must be put in place with the necessary human and financial resources. In this regard, coordination among the different EU institutions through CRPD focal points is of utmost importance.
The European Parliament Disability Intergroup recalls the Parliament resolution on the post-2020 Disability Strategy, and will remain active and vigilant to ensure that the work of this chamber reflects the interests and needs of persons with disabilities. We will keep doing so in collaboration with disability organisations across Europe, and we will make sure nobody in the EU institutions ever again ignores persons with disabilities.